I usually look forward to winter as a break from the heat and a chance to see our luscious trees morph into objects that look like giant fingertips reaching into the sky. Though many of us locals end up driving home in the dark at 5:30 p.m. during daylight saving time, I love how the holidays offer a together-we-hibernate vibe.

If you’re anything like I used to be, you might be dreading the darkness that comes with daylight saving time, and this winter is certainly different than past ones due to still being in the midst of a pandemic.

Last winter, I read The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, and it completely changed my attitude. Instead of dreading it, I started embracing winter. Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is the Danish word for happiness, coziness and contentment. Hygge is more of an experience than a word, which is why there is no exact translation in English.

Wiking’s book focuses on a few simple components of living to make winter much more enjoyable: Light, Food & Drink, Hygge Outside the Home, and others. Many of these components do not cost money, just a change in perspective or routine.

Here are some ways you can have a cozy, comfy, content and happy time in SoIN this winter:

Downtown Jeffersonville with Christmas Lights at night

Lights

Have you ever walked into a home, restaurant, or bar that had absolutely no overhead lighting, yet seemed to glow with ambient candlelight and warm lamps? The feeling of intimacy and relaxation embraces you immediately, and you feel the instant sensation of home.

Both downtowns in Jeffersonville and New Albany offer a wonderful experience of draping twinkle lights as you walk down the streets to shop, get some fresh air or eat dinner. With beautiful alleyways and gorgeous storefronts, the lights give you an instant sense of nostalgia.

 

Group eating and drinking beer at Red Yeti

Food & Drink

During these challenging times, I have been so moved by the community to support our local hospitality industry as they have quickly pivoted their business models to accommodate the pandemic. Many restaurants offer heated patio service for those who prefer the safety of outdoor dining without risking comfort in the cooler temperatures.

Couple enjoying a drink while their kids play outdoor games at Union Game Yard

In Jeffersonville, you can enjoy the heated patios of Parlour and Union Restaurant & GameYard, who will offer extensive heated patio and private cabanas.

La Catrina Margarita Flight

In New Albany, you can count on The Exchange, Floyd County Brewing Company and La Catrina to provide heated patio and sidewalk seating.

Huber's Cider

On nights you want to stay in, you can embrace a cozy tradition by making hot cider from Huber’s Orchard & Winery with the kids.

 

Family hiking Deam Lake Knobstone Trail in the fall

Break the Winter Blues Outside

Movement is so important in the winter to combat seasonal depression, maintain physical health, and breathe in that cool, crisp winter air when our bodies need a hibernation break. Whether you are a local or are on a weekend visit, Southern Indiana offers outdoor activities to get your steps in and get you out of the house.

Green at the Wooded View Golf Course

If you want a little more involved activity -- especially one that is great for social distancing, look no further than the six golf courses in Southern Indiana. With a couple of extra layers, your golf experience will be a much-needed respite, especially with great winter rates.

My husband and I love to hike in the winter -- though you may not see the buds of spring or the rich foliage of autumn, winter hiking is a preferable way to avoid the heat (layers are key here) and to see the landscape beyond the trails.

Deam Lake Knobstone Trail

The Knobstone Trail in Floyd County offers an incredible variety of hiking trails from easy to difficult, with rolling hills, gorgeous lakes, and lighter crowds than in the busy season.

A couple enjoys the colorful fall foliage at Rose Island in Charlestown State Park near Borden, Indiana.

Charlestown State Park is a fantastic choice for nice, short hikes that are very family-friendly with views of the Ohio River and the forest.

The Lewis and Clark statue covered in snow

For more friendly walking, I highly recommend The Falls of the Ohio State Park, which you can access off the Ohio River Greenway, to see the historical Devonian fossil beds and riverside trails through the woods. The fossils beds are typically seen when river levels are low, so check with the Falls of the Ohio before your visit to make sure they’re visible. The Greenway offers great views of downtown Louisville and the Ohio River, and it is perfect for walking or biking with your family and friends.

Big Four Bridge Couple Winter

And finally, the Big Four Bridge is a simple, accessible, and cozy walking experience -- especially if you start at dusk to catch the sunset over the Ohio River, followed by the glowing bridge lights that will make any walker happy and energetic.

Jackie Engle Miller Sunrise at Duffys Landing Winter Snow

Whether you’re golfing, hiking, eating at your favorite restaurant patio or making cider with your family, I hope this winter brings you a sense of togetherness -- a sense of community -- even when things are uncertain.